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Airport workers in Spain threaten crippling walkouts

Spanish airport workers take Easter holiday travel hostage

Mar 08, 2011

British tourists face an Easter holiday nightmare after airport workers in Spain threatened crippling walkouts.

In the latest development of a row over airport privatisation, unions have announced 19 strike days in a move aimed at bringing the country's tourism industry to its knees.

The industrial action has been timed to coincide with the peak travel periods of Easter and summer, with strikes starting on April 20 and continuing into May, June and July.

Last night critics admitted the walkouts would cause massive damage if they went ahead.

Spanish air traffic controllers crippled the travel plans of hundreds of thousands with a wildcat strike just before Christmas.

The Spanish government had to declare a state of emergency for the first time in the country's 33-year democracy to stop the action.

Ryanair alone has already calculated it will have to cancel 300 flights for 57,000 passengers over Easter unless the strikes can be averted.

Flights into and out of Portugal and Morocco, as well as Spain would be affected as they rely on Spanish airspace.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, speaking during a visit to Madrid, called on the EU to ban airport workers' right to strike.

He said: 'It's unacceptable that Spanish airport workers with their selfish strikes can hold an entire country to ransom.'

Three unions representing 12,500 ground staff employed by Spanish airports authority AENA are behind the strike move.

They plan to call walkouts on April 20, 21, 24, 25 and 30. Good Friday this year falls on April 22.

New strikes would take place in key travel dates in May and June as well as July 1,2, 3, 4, 15 and 31.

Baggage handlers and firefighters would be among those expected to answer the strike call, bringing many airports to a virtual standstill.

Angry workers fear government plans to sell off 49 per cent of the state-run airport operator and privatise the management of Madrid and Barcelona airports, would affect their jobs and working conditions.

Raul Gomez Alonso, of Spain's General Union of Workers, insisted: 'The government, not the workers, are to blame for what's going to happen.' Worried AENA president Juan Ignacio Lerma admitted: 'A strike is the worst scenario.

'We will do everything we can to avoid it.' Spain receives more than 44million visitors every year and tourism has been one of the main engines of its economy since it pioneered the concept of package holidays in the sixties.

The country is the most popular destination for holidaying Brits, with around 15million visiting Spain every year.

Ibiza gets around half a million every year and the Costa del Sol attracts around two and a half million British holidaymakers.

Spain was gearing up for a bumper tourist season after two bad years ahead of the strike announcement.

Mr Lema, who has organised an urgent meeting with union bosses to try to avert the indistrial action, said: 'A strike would seriously damage the tourist sector at a time when the outlook for Easter and summer are very encouraging.
'I urge the unions to negotiate.'

Spanish airport workers take Easter holiday travel hostage
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